My other example, about transmitting gravity or a stab to the face was explicitly about if they were -not- converted to data and somehow transmitted. It's not possible, but if it were, it would be a new and novel use for the internet (transmitting something other than data), and patentable.
The latter part was trying to logically stretch his already-strained metaphor about alphabet as a transmission carrier for data.
I believe that a better way of putting the parent's arguments would be - moving data over TCP is public domain. I believe we can reason from something being in public domain that it is no longer obvious. Because moving data is no longer "not-obvious", moving a specific type of data is no longer "not-obvious". Things that are obvious are not patentable. Thus, moving a specific type of data is not patentable.
This does not prevent any of the other parts of the process from being patentable. For example: under his suggestion, transmitting VOIP data across the internet is not patentable. But encoding the voice into data still is. And presenting the data on the other side of the connection (as voice, or text, braille, etc) is still patentable.
To extend this: if you created a method by which to encode and transmit a person across TCP/IP as data, it's not patentable. But the process of encoding the person -into- data is. And the process of decoding the person back into a person (or saving to your desktop or whatever) is still patentable. Furthermore, if you invented a way to transmit something other than data across the internet (say, a stab in the face, or gravity), that would still be patentable. So long as it's not data.
It's difficult to put this into your example, but to really stretch your analogy I believe the best way of putting it would be that since using an alphabet to communicate is public domain, languages (different systems that use alphabets to communicate) are not patentable. Books, however, are a display medium, and would still be patentable.
HDTP fixes a lot of the models to look considerably better.
Also, check out Deus Ex: New Vision. It's a complement to the HDTP project.
With all the new technology out there, I'm guessing there are new options for doing something like this we're unaware of. What alternatives are there to getting a webbrowser in front of several hundred people for just a few days before everything's torn down? I'm figuring some smart slashdot reader will have a really clever idea we haven't considered.